I don’t know how you guys are doing, but me, personally, when I think on things I wanted to do, I had been planning on doing, but now can’t, I feel this kind of rage and a tiny bit of panic. Like, I was planning on, like the cheapskate I am, organizing a big Alleinerziehende trip to my favourite place in the world, Tropical Islands, but now actually paying anyone’s entrance, but smuggling a bit of champagne, and when I say champagne, I mean Sekt, in. A big gaggle of women and their kids. I was planning on getting so much value for money out of my Legoland Jahreskarte that they would literally regret giving it to me (by the way were the people at Legoland calculating the risk of Corona when they made their Jahreskarten so cheap? Clever if so, but slightly evil.) I have a show in a library this month, which, by the way, hasn’t been officially cancelled yet! I have a story in the FU Review and I was so looking forward to the release party (I love release parties, launches, that kind of thing, because, you see, in my head I am Zelda Fitzgerald). My 40th birthday party!
When I think of those things, I feel this anger and panic rising in me, I want to shout and scream and yell and spit and twist my body around like a toddler. But – and maybe we should invent a German word for this – when I think of things I DON’T want to do, never would do, have never planned on doing – I want to cry. And not angry tears. Just soft, sad tears, just falling out of me. I cried last night when I got into bed, cried in a way I had never cried before – I felt like a weeping willow, like there was no momentum behind the tears, no energy, but they were just flowing through me. Like they came from above, almost like, and don’t worry, haven’t gone religious, like as if they came from God. Why was I crying? I thought the words „Domino-Abend.“ Actually in Germany, it’s probably one word, isn’t it. And then I imagined all the Domino-Fans in their Domino-Verein and they can’t meet up anymore and I just wept and wept and wept.
Berlin, famously, isn’t on lockdown yet. You’re not meant to stay in all day long yet, you’re meant to go out. You’re meant to go out to get fresh air, you’re meant to go out if you need to. You’re meant go out to give your toddler some fresh air, trying to persuade them not to touch chewing gum, old cigarettes, old tampons that they find along the way. The kinds of things they shouldn’t be touching at the best of times, you know? Everyone is out, everyone is pretending they’re in a kind of kitschy French film that’s been filmed in English and set in a seaside town. I never saw so many Germans smile before the Corona virus hit them. Old white German people are EVEN smiling at strangers in East Berlin, with some of them you can tell their skin isn’t used to it and is about to crack open. So I’m walking along with my baby, and I want to avoid the Spielplatz because I basically think that Dr Drosten is a Russian spy who wants to kill us all, and also because even though he is an expert and I am not, I realize that you can’t keep a kid at a playground 1.5 metres entfernt from any other kid so basically, even before they literally banned them, anyone with an ounce of common sense should’ve been avoiding Spielplatzes anyway. The trouble is, I live in East Berlin, and fuck me, we have good playgrounds here. Every two seconds you find another beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful playground. I try to plan my Spaziergänge to avoid playgrounds but it’s almost impossible and yesterday me and my toddler walked past one.
„Schleeschaut!“, he said, which is how he pronounces playground, and yes, once this is all over I might have to take him to the Ohrenarzt/Logopäde.
„Playground kaputt,“ I said. The playground was heaving with irresponsible dicks who don’t deserve to have health insurance, basically.
„Kaputt?“ He asked. He looked at me dubiously.
„We might be sick,“ I said to him. We’re dry-coughing up a storm over here, by the way. We might not have Corona. But we might do. „If we go there, we might make other people sick. But if we aren’t sick, if we go there, the other people make us sick. So for us, the playground’s kaputt. It’s sad, huh?“
„Sad,“ he said.
„Sad,“ I said.
„Mama, weeeeeeeeee!“ He said, pointing to the slide.
„Slides are so much fun, huh,“ I said. „As soon as the playground isn’t kaputt, we’ll go there again, okay?“
I felt anger and panic during this conversation, and a granny tending her flowers came out and smiled at me and I felt anger and panic again, why was she smiling, why have they suddenly discovered the power of the smile, it’s fucking weird, like the bad wolf graffiti in Doctor Who. I put the baby – he’s not a baby really – back into his pushchair and wheeled him round the corner. And round the corner, I saw a poster for a German kids‘ theatre show. You know how Berlin kids‘ theatre shows are often really kind of crap? Like unimaginative, loveless, colourless, ugly, pointless – devoid of fun or joy – not silly in any way. There was that fake Peppa Pig show, where they made Mummy Pig and George look hideously ugly, and the Grüffelo one, and now there are still posters for Mascha the Bär and the Jungle Book everywhere. I never wanted to go to these things, they make me feel homesick for pantomimes and Punch and Judy. I looked at the Kindertheater poster and I thought it looked like the shittiest show I could possible imagine. If I had gone to see it, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. The thought of going to see something and not enjoying it – the thought that I now can’t even go to see things I don’t enjoy – filled me with sorrow, and I wheeled the baby down the road, the sun was shining, everything looked normal, and I wept and wept and wept and wept, and tried my hardest to make sure the baby didn’t notice.